Industry 4.0 begins after a company has modern software systems and the machines are connected to them.
For example: your plant may have a laser cutting machine with linkage to the CAM software, and production results are fed back to the ERP.
It may seem that this is really high-tech, but this is not Industry 4.0. Instead, it is Industry 3.0. Because: the data is still in silos, for example the ERP software.
Only after data can be freely exchanged do you get to Industry 4.0: insight and more control over your business.
You can now analyze and create an overview of the plant’s performance. For example, consider a dashboard that includes predicted and actual times of many manufactured products.
The moment you can link the entire plant to a central database, from office to shopfloor and back, you can then analyze the process and discover trends.
Once you start using data to predict, you eventually reach the holy grail in which processes can optimize themselves.
For example, applying machine learning to automatically determine production times based on geometric data in a 3D model, or having schedules adjusted automatically without human intervention.
The diagram of below provides a more visual representation of this:
How do you tackle it?
To get started with your smart factory, you must first have a good foundation. How to go about this, I explain in an article: The 7 Steps to a Smart Autonomous Metalworking Plant.
Nowadays, software can help you achieve a goal much faster. However, most systems will not fit your situation perfectly. For this, it is important to integrate the best systems with each other into the existing business process. If you need help with this, feel free to schedule an introduction.